The stories of Canadian settlers of African descent are complex and dynamic.

During the American Revolutionary War an estimated 100,000 Black Loyalists
fled to the British side.

The first large wave of Africans to arrive in Canada consisted of free Black Loyalists invited by the British government after the American Revolutionary War. Those who came as slaves were brought by United Empire Loyalists who also sought refuge after the war.

Our story begins with an enslaved girl from Queenstown, Upper Canada. Her name was Chloë Cooley. In March of 1793, she was beaten and bound by her owner and then sold to an American.

At the time, the law that was in force here in British North America made prosecution of the man who beat her impossible because it defined Chloë as his property.

However, the incident had a powerful political effect. The first Lieutenant Governor of Upper Canada, John Simcoe, was an abolitionist – he believed that slavery should be abolished. What was done to Chloë Cooley reinforced Simcoe’s belief that the abolition of slavery was necessary.

On June 19th, 1793, Attorney General White introduced Simcoe's anti-slavery measure in the legislature of Upper Canada and it passed. The law did not go far enough; it did not outlaw slavery immediately but it stated that all children born into slavery had to be freed when they turned 25. This was one of the first laws to be passed in Upper Canada.

On August 1st, 1834, slavery was abolished in all British colonies. The last known private advertisements for slaves appeared in Halifax in 1820 and in Quebec City in 1821.

By the end of the 18th century there were more than 40 black communities in Upper Canada.
Royal Ontario Museum
Historical Advisors: Buxton National Historic Site and Museum; Alison Faulknor, The Dominion Institute; Nick Brune, author and history teacher, Buxton; Rinaldo Walcott, Associate Professor and Canada Research Chair, Social Justice and Cultural Studies, Ontario Institute for Studies in Education of the University of Toronto

© 2006, Royal Ontario Museum. All Rights Reserved.

Teachers' Centre Home Page | Find Learning Resources & Lesson Plans